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Review: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership

HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership
HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership by Harvard Business School Press

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who deserves to be called a leader? Why should it be him or her? And what do leaders do anyway?

People have been arguing about the ideal leader. It’s normal. If we all agreed on the concept of leadership, then we would not have to hold elections or support one person over the other to represent us. This book illuminates my understanding of leadership and leaders.

In essence, each article in this compilation gives differing and sometimes competing definitions of leadership. Daniel Coleman sees that a leader has higher emotional intelligence than others, while Kotler maintains that the work of a leader is to steer people through change. According to Jim Collins, truly great leaders face their lives with humility and don’t draw attention to themselves, but Goffee and Jones insists that a leader should put forward some characteristics that set them apart from other people. Peter F. Drucker, interestingly, throws away the notion of a “leader” and believes that everyone should be able to be an executive (i.e. completing tasks in an organization) regardless of their personality or interpersonal influence if they followed several rules.

After repeatedly reading each chapter, though, I have begun to understand that what makes a leader is very dependent on the situation. There is no perfect leader for all things to all peoople. Rather, there are leaders for particular organizations, particular peoples, and particular times and places. Perhaps we should be satisfied sticking to those various definitions of leadership because they seem to represent these differing contexts.

This book is not intended as a “how to be a leader” for leaders or anyone who seeks to gain a position of leadership. Rather, the readings should give them an insight on how they should dedicate their effort and exercise their influence over their organizations and people. In that case, I found this book really enlightening.

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